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CONCERT REVIEW      –     BLACKDOWNS EARLY MUSIC PROJECTS

Blackdowns Early Music Projects latest presentation on Sunday March 1st in Culmstock Church was extremely well-attended and marked another significant step in bringing lesser known early music to a local audience. The theme of this concert represented a break from liturgical music to one highlighting the rich tradition of secular music abundant in the 17th century.

The overarching title for the concert, post Valentine’s day, was “Amor vince ogni cosa” (Love conquers all), the title of the wonderfully lyrical centre piece of the evening by French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This was flanked by earlier Italian vocal works by Sigismondo d’India and Claudio Monteverdi, with instrumental interludes by Rossi, Cavalli and Merula together with a dramatic set of baroque guitar improvisations on Les Folies d’Espagne.

The move toward dramatising texts stems from the Florentine Camerata, a group of writers and composers who worked towards a more expressive delivery of the sung text. This, as we heard particularly in d’India’s “Il Pastor fido”, resulted in a style of declamatory monodic singing controlled by the rhythms of dramatic speech.

As we have come to expect from this exceptionally professional group, the overall and individual performances were of a very high standard, all directed and overseen by BEMP’s principal director JanJoost van Elburg.

The performance was further enhanced by the accompanying instrumental music consisting of violins, Julia Black and Ben Sansom, gamba by Henrik Persson, as well as an electrifying performance on baroque guitar and theorbo by Taro Takeuchi.

It seems almost impossible to achieve such a completely satisfying performance of this complexity and beauty in the short time allocated to rehearsal (the singers gathered on Friday afternoon and performed on Sunday). We must again thank the undying energy and enthusiasm of the organisers Catherine and Geoffrey Bass and the professionalism of JanJoost van Elburg for providing live music in our own locale that would be well received in any major music venue. The obvious enthusiasm of the audience rewarded all the performers.

Malcolm Plastow & John Hiscock